PRCA Census 2016: Digital, tech and health among areas set for 'explosive' growth

Part four of the PRCA's 2016 Census suggests practitioners expect to spend more of their time delivering digital campaigns, notably in the growing tech and health sectors.

Tech and health have the biggest potential for growth, according to the census
Tech and health have the biggest potential for growth, according to the census
The PRCA’s 2016 Census of the PR and comms industry paints, in some cases, a disturbing picture of a sector that, although largely young and vibrant, continues to lack diversity in terms of background and gender.

As for remuneration, average salaries have been slashed across the board for both agency and in-house teams, and cuts to senior pay appear to have been most severe since the last census in 2013.

The survey of 1,874 practitioners, carried out by YouGov, also reveals stark differences in levels of pay, gender balance and average age across the regions of the UK, and asks respondents to predict what will be the most important tasks in their jobs in two years’ time.

Danny Rogers, PRWeek’s editor-in-chief, says: "As someone who has been in and around this industry for two decades – first as a graduate trainee in PR, and later as an industry editor and author – what strikes me about the PR Census is how little the big themes actually change. We are still discussing the future of print, the hot growth of healthcare and tech, the difficulties of measurement and the lack of diversity. But the industry is getting most things right. Because for most of those two decades UK PR spend has been growing rapidly, and continues to do so. Another constant is PR’s adaptability – and this is more critical than ever as technology and media rapidly transform each other."

Francis Ingham, PRCA director-general, tells PRWeek: "Considering the salary figures, there’s a welcome shift from a top-heavy model to one that more appropriately rewards the people who do the most work. I believe this is a result of two things: on the one hand, consolidation of major networked agencies; and, on the other, CEOs and board members having the confidence to set up their own outfits, while taking a sizeable pay cut. The entrepreneurial spirit is back."

Section Four: Areas of future growth 

In the fourth of our five-part series on the Census, PRWeek looks at which sectors of the industry show the biggest signs of growth.

According to the census, the two PR sectors that require investment and are most likely to grow over the next two years are technology and health. Forty-nine per cent of those surveyed said the technology sector would grow while 34 per cent said the largest growth area was health.

Commenting on the findings, Ian Hood, managing director of Babel PR, says: "Internet technologies aren’t the only tech in town but the explosive growth in them gives us a very good indication of a fundamental change in the way we all ‘work, rest and play’. It’s for that reason that the demand for technology PR expertise continues to grow. Ironically, one of the biggest challenges for those of us working in tech PR is finding people who, although understanding the underlying technology, concepts and issues, can divorce themselves from the technology and communicate in the language of the target business or consumer. Most people, nerds aside, don’t really care about the technology; they care about what it delivers."

Among agency chairmen or chief executives, 45 per cent chose technology and 38 per cent chose health as the biggest growth areas.

Both these sectors were also deemed the most likely source of industry growth in the 2013 census.

Scott McKenzie, joint managing director and head of change and employee engagement at Lansons, says the growth in the health sector will continue, along with the challenges it faces.

He adds: "The need for healthcare organisations to adapt their business models, to transform and innovate, has never been more pressing. With those challenges comes the need for great advice around reputation management, stakeholder engagement and business transformation, and agencies need to recognise these trends and invest in the right talent to meet the changing demands."

The findings chime with the sectors PR agencies work in most. According to those surveyed, technology has risen in importance by 12 percentage points, from 17 per cent to 29 per cent, since 2013.

Other sectors that have seen greater emphasis since 2013 include consumer services, which has risen 10 percentage points to 24 per cent, health, which has risen from seven per cent to 16 per cent, and retail and wholesale, which has more than quadrupled in importance from four per cent to 18 per cent.

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